A lack of contests affecting the ISL and Indian Football seems to be an unspoken issue. Back up to 2013 and fans will notice that the prior top division, I-League listed 13 teams with 24 games each month per team. The football almanac also presented competitions such as the IFA Shield, Durand Cup, Federation Cup and Rovers Cup. Roughly, an up to the mark footballer whose club plays in all the contests sees around 40 games a year.
The birth of ISL
However, in 2012 there was a change of scene in ISL. In 2014, ISL became an aligned franchise-based football league. The new franchise-based system drew in a lot of investors, sponsors, journalists and even fans into the popular game. But, it knotted up the Indian football calendar.
ISL stood as a “booster dose” in the short run, as stated by AIFF President Praful Patel. But now this is the country’s top division. In 2019, the ISL was proclaimed as the country’s top division. This made it supreme for Kolkata-based sides like ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal to get in for a piece.
ATKMB and SC East Bengal step up to the ISL
The advent of SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan greatly benefitted sports marketing and brand outreach for the clubs and the league. However, clubs moving into the ISL robbed the I-League of its biggest matchup which garnered massive attention. Thus, this has led to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) shifting its attention away from the I-League.
A private entity called Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) is able to conduct a full-fledged league within a bio-bubble in 2020. However, the AIFF conceded its responsibility and chose a double round contest to abridge the season. Federation and Rovers Cup have been discontinued. The IFA Shield and Durand Cup are mere youth and pre-season tournaments.
The tale of AIFF and the ISL
Also to be noted, AIFF initiated Super Cup under the umbrella of ISL only to replace the older tournament, Federation Cup. This tournament was actually the same contest following the exact same format. Ironically, FSDL and AIFF also halted the Super Cup.
It is intriguing how AIFF did away with a whole division in I-League 2nd Division. A briefer I-League 2012 qualifier was implemented. Previously, teams throughout India played in groups before appearing for the final round leading to the I-League.
Nonetheless, it is now a brief competition. A handful of games go on to determine the I-League’s new entries. Continuing post qualifiers, one can play some of the best fantasy football and win bonus amounts. Competitiveness in the I-League has increased considerably in the past few seasons.
The new footballing almanac
Indian players presently are able to play roughly over 30 games a season, spanning 4 months. This leads to idleness between the clubs and the players in vital parts of the season. Fewer games has been affecting India’s club contest awareness in tournaments along with Indian national team games.
The associates part of Indian football need to start making the sport a priority and not just the accompanying money. To get India on the football map, longer leagues, revival of older tournaments and prioritization of merit ahead of cash must be addressed.
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